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Analysis: Light Shed On Ingush Militants' Motives

On 19 July, the independent website published an update by B. Bagaudinov on the ongoing investigation into the 21-22 June raids on Interior Ministry facilities in Ingushetia that left almost 90 people dead. Four days earlier, on 15 July, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov gave the number of suspects arrested in connections with those coordinated attacks as approximately 30, of whom 20 have been formally charged. Bagaudinov failed to cite the source of his information, which seems plausible, however.

According to Bagaudinov, the majority of the raiders were ethnic Ingush aged 18-25. (On 21 and 22 June, quoted eyewitnesses as saying most of the raiders were very young and spoke Ingush.) But the young men fall into two distinct categories. The first, more radical group comprises those young men who left home to fight in the ranks of the Chechen resistance and won their Chechen co-militants' respect. The second group includes young men from "normal" Ingush families who, frustrated by poverty and the lack of employment and alienated by widespread official corruption, turned to Islam as a vehicle for "the moral salvation of the nation." As a result, some of them were abducted and killed by the Ingush authorities on the mistaken assumption that they were "Wahhabis," even though, as Bagaudinov stressed, "they had no ties with the militants and did not try to split [Ingush] society."

Bagaudinov claimed that the two groups would never have made common cause were it not for the lawlessness unleashed on Ingushetia by the Federal Security Service (FSB). But then, in an implicit contradiction, Bagaudinov said that the Chechen resistance registered the mass alienation of the population of Ingushetia, and resolved to make use of it for their own ends. He claimed that early this year the Chechens sent emissaries into Ingushetia -- Ingush who had fought in the Chechen ranks -- to recruit such disaffected young men, who during April-May were trained in basic military skills in camps on Ingush territory that the FSB somehow failed to detect. Bagaudinov identified radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev as the mastermind behind the raids into Ingushetia. The website quoted eyewitnesses of the raid as saying young participants claimed that Basaev was their commander. And RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service pointed out that there are no Ingush field commanders with the experience and tactical knowledge to plan and launch such a complex operation. Only Basaev, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov (who has disclaimed responsibility), and a couple of other Chechen field commanders would have been capable of doing so.
Eyewitnesses of the raid said young participants claimed that Basaev was their commander.

Bagaudinov estimated the number of raiders as approximately 300 Ingush, 30 Chechens, and 10 members of other North Caucasus ethnic groups, including one Ossetian. He claimed that "the investigation has established that it was primarily the Ingush who bear responsibility for the killings." After the raid, the "radicals" and accompanying Chechens retreated to the mountains, while the young Ingush returned to their families: It is primarily these, according to Bagaudinov, who have been detained and arrested.

In an interview published on 21 July in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," former Ingush Mufti Magomed-hadji Albogachiev painted a more detailed picture of the genesis of militant Islam in Ingushetia and the Ingushetian authorities' reaction to it. Albogachiev admitted that the primary reason for his resignation as mufti earlier this month was the lack of trust between himself and Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov and which made it "difficult" for the two men to work together. But he went on to lambaste Zyazikov for allegedly declining to take resolute steps to counter "extremism" among Ingushetia's Muslims on the grounds that such measures could scare off potential investors.

Albogachiev, who served as mufti for 12 years, claimed that thanks to close cooperation between the senior Muslim clergy and the republic's political leadership, the religious situation was "always very quiet," to the point that Ingushetia "served as an example to the entire Russian Federation." But the war in Chechnya fueled the rise of what he termed "extremist " religious elements, which the official clergy sought to neutralize. Since Zyazikov's election in April 2002, Albogachiev claimed "Islamic religious organizations whose leaders acquired their education outside the republic have started to be legalized [and] extremist elements and 'dissenting' [raskolnicheskie] mosques have begun to appear." But, he noted, the republic's leadership failed to take any steps to counter the rise of militant Islam.

Neither Bagaudinov nor Albogachiev offered any explanation for the Ingushetian authorities' failure to crack down on militant Islamic groups -- a failure that is all the more incomprehensible in the light of repeated Russian warnings of the dangers such groups pose. Nor did either offer an estimate of how many of Ingushetia's population of 300,000 belong to, or sympathize with, such groups.